UN Committee calls for greater integration of macroeconomic assessment, poverty reduction policies and strategies to finance sustainable development in Asia-Pacific

The Committee on Macroeconomic Policy, Poverty Reduction and Financing for Development closed today at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) headquarters in Bangkok with a call for countries to take a more integrated approach towards macroeconomic assessment, poverty reduction policies, and financing for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The three-day meeting also highlighted the relevance of ESCAP’s analytical and capacity building work, and recommended that the Regional Commission strengthens its assistance to Member States.

Opened by United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, the Committee gathered 120 policymakers from 32 countries including representatives from finance and planning ministries, academia, the private sector and civil society. Dr. Akhtar highlighted the importance of macroeconomic policy, noting that there is need to lift growth, and above all else, its quality.

“Growth must be inclusive, equitable and sustainable, underpinned by policy measures fostering the nexus between economic, social and environmental dimensions, to reduce poverty in all its forms and enhance inclusiveness,” she said. “Sustaining long-term and quality economic growth is critical to promote inclusive and sustainable development. Macroeconomic and financial stability is a prerequisite for sustainable development but needs to be accompanied by an enabling policy environment that not only incentivizes private investment but also enhances avenues and opportunities for sustainable investment.”

Dr. Akhtar added, “Fiscal support for SDGs cannot be feasible unless accompanied by measures to fully tap the tax potential of economies, while reorienting tax policies to promote equity and efficient investments. Expenditure reprioritization and efficiency is critical to direct spending for SDGs implementation, including diverting resources for enhancing social protection options, while effective debt management is critical to ensure the durability of fiscal space.”

As challenges faced by the region are more severe in countries with special needs, the Committee emphasized the importance of continued assistance and capacity building to the poorest countries in their efforts to graduate from the least-developed country designation, to landlocked countries in overcoming their structural challenges, and to small island developing states in addressing their vulnerabilities.

The Committee underlined the importance of sustainable fiscal positions that can make enough fiscal space, both through public resource mobilization and private sector finance, to undertake the investments required to reduce poverty and inequality and achieve the SDGs. The challenge is particularly important in the infrastructure sector. At around $26 trillion over the next 13 years, the demand for sustainable infrastructure and its financing in Asia and the Pacific is immense.

Public resources alone will not suffice to fulfill this demand, therefore there is substantial scope to scale up capital markets and promote innovative sources of finance such as Public-Private Partnerships. The existence of such fiscal space challenges also calls for a significant transformation of national tax regimes, along with the strengthening of public expenditure management by eliminating unproductive expenditures and incentives.
At the opening session, Mr. Apisak Tantivorawong, Minister of Finance of Thailand shared his country’s experiences and initiatives in mobilizing financial resources, highlighting the multitude of stakeholders involved.

“Financing for development cannot depend solely on government budget,” he said, noting that partnerships among private businesses, governments and international organizations are crucial to mobilizing funds from the private sector, inducing innovative financing mechanisms and fostering financial inclusion within countries.

The Committee on Macroeconomic Policy, Poverty Reduction and Financing for Development is held every two years and serves as a mechanism for ESCAP member countries to evaluate the work of ESCAP.

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